Noise & Air Pollution
Following the 2014 announcement regarding plans to widen the M3 and transform it into a Smart Motorway, Michael met the Roads Minister, Robert Goodwill, with Local Councillor Conrad Sturt and Chair of the Windlesham Society, Graham Bullen, in May 2014 to raise concerns about the potential noise impact arising from the increased levels of traffic along the new smart motorway. Mr Goodwill was delighted to report that all eight lanes of the M3 through Surrey Heath had been chosen to receive quiet-surface treatment during the smart motorway works, and Michael was happy to learn of the action being taken to mitigate noise pollution. Windlesham Parish Council and the Windlesham Society worked extremely hard highlighting the need for this tarmac, and Michael was hugely grateful for their efforts.
Following completion of these resurfacing works in 2017, however, residents continued to raise complaints about excessive noise emanating from the motorway, and you will see below details of the further action that has been taken to try to secure improvements.
May 2017 – Michael met representatives from National Highways in Windlesham together with local councillors to explain that despite the installation of the quiet-surface tarmac, noise pollution remained, and in fact was reportedly worse for some constituents. It was evidently the case that the removal of trees and bushes, which ran parallel to the motorway prior to its widening, had a significant impact on noise, as there was no longer an effective acoustic barrier to limit noise pollution. Michael was encouraged that National Highways agreed to replace the necessary trees in due course.
February 2018 – Having not heard further from National Highways, Michael wrote to the Chief Executive to ask for an urgent update on when the works would be completed. He then received a response clarifying that works had since been finished, but that compromises were made regarding the maturity of the trees owing to the level of risk of survival for more mature trees. Younger trees would evidently provide less of a noise barrier until they matured, but it was understood that this was preferable to the continued replanting of larger trees which were unlikely to survive.
June 2018 – In light of the limited improvement following the above replanting of trees, Michael held a further meeting with representatives from National Highways, local councillors and residents in a field neighbouring the motorway in order to properly assess the levels of noise and air pollution residents were experiencing. Michael then received a summary of noise and air pollution levels from National Highways which you can find below.
September 2018 – Michael once again met Councillors Mike Goodman and Conrad Sturt, together with Graham Bullen from the Windlesham Society, to discuss concerns regarding the accuracy of the data within the summary owing to the way it was collected. Principally, concerns were raised that National Highways provided calculated measurements that were modelled from two particular monitoring sites, neither of which are in Windlesham.
October 2018 – Michael wrote again to National Highways to ask for the matter of data collection to be looked into further, and to ask for National Highways to conduct surveys to establish the extent of air pollution and noise in Windlesham, taking actual readings from sites where trees and vegetation have been removed, for example next to Scutley Lane Bridge. He also shared details of officers from Surrey Heath Borough Council’s Environmental Health team who had kindly offered their support. Michael had also noticed that a number of the previously planted trees had died, so raised this and asked for it to be investigated urgently.
February 2019 – Nick Harris at National Highways responded to Michael’s letter outlining further data collection information, which you can find at the bottom of this page.
March 2019 – Following the aforementioned response, Michael invited Councillors Mike Goodman and Conrad Sturt, together with Graham Bullen, to a further surgery appointment to discuss their thoughts.
April 2019 – Michael wrote once more to National Highways to request up-to-date readings of pollution levels, as opposed to computer generated measurements. He also explained that the data being used by National Highways, which had not been collected for a number of months, showed that the area was already close to exceeding the pollution limit, suggesting that new readings would confirm the pollution limit had in fact been breached.
September 2019 – Michael met Councillors Bill Chapman, Mike Goodman and Rebecca Jennings-Evans at the junction of the M3/A322 where the issue of noise and air pollution was raised once again.
April 2021 – When the pandemic struck, it was understandably the case that traffic dropped significantly, naturally limiting noise and air pollution along the M3. Michael, of course, continued to keep in touch with local Councillors and National Highways regarding the issue, especially following news that the trees, which had been repeatedly replanted, again sadly died. He arranged a further meeting with National Highways as to how to ensure the next round of replanting was successful, and to raise the possibility of further measures to limit noise, such as the installation of an acoustic fence.
June 2021 – Michael met local County Councillors Richard Tear and Rebecca Jennings-Evans to discuss the M3/A322 junction and problems surrounding noise and air pollution along the M3. They committed to working together to press National Highways, Surrey County Council, the Environment Agency and Defra for the necessary improvements.
January 2022 – Michael held another virtual meeting with a number of representatives from National Highways to discuss what progress had been made regarding long and short-term options for reducing congestion at the M3/A322 junction, as well as what action is being taken to reduce noise and air pollution emanating from the M3. He posted an update on his Facebook page, which you can read here. He received the below response and summary of the meeting from National Highways in late January.
February 2022 – Michael wrote again to National Highways to request further information to be offered on plans to assess the noise pollution moving forward.
March 2022 – Michael then received the reply below from National Highways suggesting he approaches Defra regarding its Noise Mapping Process.
April 2022 – Michael wrote to Defra to raise residents’ ongoing concerns relating to noise and air pollution emanating from the motorway. He explained the importance of finding a feasible solution, especially in light of the previous proposed solutions which have been pursued to little avail - including resurfacing the motorway and planting trees along the noise hotspots. Whilst Defra’s Noise Mapping process is undertaken every five years, with the next exercise scheduled in 2024, Michael asked what mechanisms exist to allow an area to be monitored outside of the usual schedule.
August 2022 – Michael received a response from the Defra Secretary, which you can read below, explaining that a number of areas along the M3 by Windlesham were identified as ‘Important Areas’ for priority mitigation activity, and that it was at the local highways authority’s discretion how funding was prioritised.
October 2022 – Having tried to further ascertain where responsibility lay for making the required improvements, Michael decided to seek a meeting with all involved parties to get to the bottom of how to best secure meaningful progress.
February 2023 – Michael held the aforementioned meeting with Rebecca Pow MP, Minister for Environmental Quality & Resilience, and Richard Holden MP, Minister for Roads & Local Transport, together with representatives from the Department for Transport, Defra, National Highways and Surrey County Council. Local County Councillors Rebecca Jennings-Evans and Richard Tear, and Graham Bullen, Chairman of the Windlesham Society, also joined the meeting and made extremely valuable contributions. A number of potential solutions were raised at the meeting, including the possibility of installing acoustic fencing, altering speed limits, and replanting dense foliage. Each of these have technical hurdles that would need to be overcome, and there is also, of course, competition for funding from other pinch points along the M3. Michael has requested a further meeting with Surrey County Council and National Highways to delve deeper into the technical aspects of potential improvements, and will share a further update in due course.
Gantry signs for Camberley
Michael is continuing his campaign for Camberley to be added to the M3 gantry signs at junctions 3 and 4.
Michael has previously raised this issue with National Highways and the Department for Transport, and has now written to the new Transport Secretary to ask for the Department to look at this issue afresh, and for him to offer all the assistance he can to have the town added to the signs.
Lay-by in Bagshot
The A322 lay-by in Bagshot near Freemantle Road was causing local residents a great deal of misery, and following Michael’s campaign with local Councillors, the Surrey Heath Local Area Committee responded and agreed to close the lay-by.
Surrey County Council allocated the necessary funds to permanently close the lay-by, and the work was completed in September 2020.